Paragon City Stories: Meanwhile at the Superbase
Hosted by UNINVENTIVEHEART
Chapter II, Scene 1
Place: Aspect Of The Pillar of Ice And Flame
Note: This is my first attempt at using Ouroboros in our games. Please read the following carefully:
As a general note on play, I don’t think every character in Paragon City would know about Ouroboros. If they did, yeah… chaos. Paige, Requiescat and PulseFire certainly do not. Tahquitz was exposed to Ouroboros by accident, so he was given access to a teleporter to the Citadel. Paige, Req, and Pulse are happily ignorant of the idea that time is malleable, and I intend to keep them that way.
If Tahquitz is approached about whether he knows about Ouroboros, he’ll deny it until he sees the character in the Citadel with his own eyes, as their first rule of being “Entrusted With The Secret” is not to share it with outsiders. Despite how it was commonly used in City of Heroes when it was live, even if he’s at death’s door, he won’t “drop a portal” to get everyone out safely. The time stream is too important to protect. Important enough that if his death stops others from gaining access to it, so be it. I think this basic creed is required of anyone who has the burden of it. That would also mean if Tahq wanted to revert a mistake, he’s pretty much on his own to do so.
Finally, as a failsafe, I was thinking that any use of the Pillar of Ice And Flame has to be approved by a Mender first. If they fail to see the importance of changing the timeline, then they can refuse to allow the mission to continue, no matter how badly the character protests it. In this case, the artifact Tahquitz is hunting for is irreparably destroyed, so without trying to save it in the past, it can’t be brought back. I imagine there may be some characters who are aware of it (Linuial being a definite yes, she’s been alive too long not to, but Nyghtshade herself may not be.)
This is purely a MATS construct for sure, I welcome the use of Ouroboros here without issue for any characters you think are Entrusted.
For the REGULAR GAMES in Paragon City Stories please understand that this may not be a welcome addition. So as a favor to other hosts to keep their plotlines simple and not to allow for Deus Ex Machina to be as easy as “let’s add another scene, go to Ouroboros, and try it again” I AM NOT DISCLOSING WHEN TAHQUITZ BECAME “ENTRUSTED WITH THE SECRET”. It might be early on, it might NOT have happened yet in the real timeline. This also means this is pretty much a bottle episode: Paige, PulseFire and other characters that might give a clue on where Tahq is in his timeline will not be a part of this scene.
In short, don’t count on Ouroboros to save our asses if something goes horribly wrong in a future game. It might not be allowed by the host, whose ruling is final.
Finally, the ending of this is a MASSIVE cheat on my behalf to Tahquitz’s backstory. He doesn’t know this in the regular game timeline by the way.
“So, how did this begin?” Mender Onquoy asked.
Tahquitz began his account to the Mender on why he needs to ask for a reversion of what happened in Oranbega last week.
“It was a long and stormy night…”
“Reversion denied, unless you want to cut the jokes out. Humor isn’t a patience we have here.” Onquoy cautioned.
“Very well. I’m sorry. Anyway, we were deep in Oranbega. The Malleus Mundi, a tome that could change the nature of reality itself, was reassembled by Circle of Thorns mages to bring into being a terrible Force Mage, Bekuaat, from the void. Why this was significant: Bekuaat isn’t from Oranbega. He’s originally from the Shadow Shard, and one of the betrayers of Faathim the Kind as a servant of Chularn. With Bekuaat in corporeal form, the secrets of Rulaaru were theirs for the taking.”
“So, they took the book to The Chantry and used it to bring Bekuaat’s body back from destruction, ideally to restore him and make the allegiance between him and the Circle a life-debt to start using soul thorns to resurrect fallen Rulaaru lords. I stopped that…”
“… but I couldn’t stop Bekuaat from destroying the text right there on the spot. The book was lost in a place where even Rulaaru fear called Inithaa, translated to “where the formed become formless”. It’s the only place in Shadow Shard where even Gods fear to tread, and mortal creatures are blocked from entry. Anything with a form can’t enter Inithaa.”
“But there’s a problem. The Malleus Mundi is needed. Here. Now.”
“Yes. And the book is needed for The Coming Storm. So, I do agree on the importance of retrieving it. But tell me this, once you have the book, what are you going to do with it?” Mender Onquoy asks.
“Bury it in the one place no one will be looking for it. Praetoria.” Tahquitz said, “The Midnighter Club in the Night Ward is well qualified to hide it until it is needed again.”
“Interesting proposition. I’ll need to confer with Mender Silos on if this is feasible. If it is, you’ll know tomorrow.” Mender Onquoy said.
“How will I know?” Tahquitz asks.
“Head to your favorite restaurant in Talos Island at 11 a.m. Sit in a booth and order a Raspberry Walnut Salad with Vinaigrette, and a sugarless Iced Tea. Place it opposite of you. She’ll join you at the table if Mender Silos approves of your operation. If she doesn’t arrive by 2 p.m., eat the salad and forget about it.” Mender Onquoy said.
“Rather specific, but alright. Thanks in advance.” Tahquitz says before closing the Aspect. He stretches and heads off to sleep.
Tahquitz is sitting in a booth at The Dirty Duck, just east of the train. He’s playing a game on his phone with a well-dressed salad sitting on the table opposite of him in the booth, and a tall, Iced Tea that’s sweating from condensation on the table.
It’s been there since 11:45 a.m. It’s now 1 p.m. and the waitress is shaking her head at the counter, thinking he’s been stood up by a date.
A short slender young Asian-American woman in jeans, t-shirt and sneakers walks up to the table and regards the salad. “For me? How thoughtful,” she grins, with a wink at Tim as she slides into the seat and picks up the fork. “Raspberry walnut salad, my particular favorite.”
She lifts a forkful of salad part way, and then looks at his empty place setting. “You’re not having anything?”
“That’s not the instructions I got.” Tahquitz said. “If I get one detail wrong, you wouldn’t have found my table. But now that you mention it…” Tahq gets the attention of the waitress who meets him at the booth, “I’ll have a South of The Border Burger and Cola. Hold the fries.”
With the waitress walking off, he returns his attention to the woman across from him. “Sorry, your tea was cold when I got here… Lift your straw for a moment?” He touches the bottom of the glass which freezes the bottom of the drink and frosts all of the glass over at once. “That should help. I’m Tahquitz. And you are?”
“Registered name is Jade Dancer.” She lifts an eyebrow as she picks up the now-frosty glass of tea. “Handy trick.”
She sips the tea and sets the glass down again. “Friend of mine thought you could use some help. She ‘mends’ things.”
Jade digs into the salad, clearly enjoying it.
“Cool. I have a friend like that, too. That gets me to the second question I had for you… and forgive me, my Latin is terrible.”
“Tu nocte es filia?” Tahquitz asks in a low voice.
Jade lifts an eyebrow at the cloak-and-daggerness of the conversation, but dutifully replies, not quite so quietly, “Si vis pacem, para bellum.”
“You might do better to ask Nyghtshade that,” she adds, chuckling and attacking the salad again.
“Well, the last woman I asked that to in Paragon City University smacked me across the eyes. She knew Latin, clearly, but obviously doesn’t deal in antiquities like we do.”
“I could use your help. And a typical hero won’t be of much benefit… I can’t just ask anyone. There’s no money involved, as with most of what we do… just the satisfaction that when we go to bed at night, it’s in our own beds… and not in a Circle of Thorns-issued bedroll at a slaver camp.”
“The Malleus Mundi, that book that keeps hopping dimensions? I had eyes on it in Oranbega, but when I hopped to Shadow Shard from there in a portal to stop the undead from walking the earth, when I came back, one of the jerks threw the book into a dimensional garbage disposal. So, getting it back now isn’t possible… Hold on. Just play along.”
The waitress walked back with his drink and Tahquitz started immediately, “So what kind of physical training do you do? I’ve tried Cross-Fit and similar things, but I’m looking for stamina, not bulking up.”
“You want stamina, you need to try Parkour,” Jade assures him blithely. “Talk about a total-body workout.”
“Really? What’s that?” asked Tahquitz feigning ignorance. “I’m looking to enter the Paragon City Marathon in 8 months, it sounds expensive.”
“Here’s your drink, sweetie. The burger is coming up in 6 minutes… as you can see, there’s not much in customers today.” The waitress points to the mostly empty tables except for two men at the counter drinking before headed back to work, and a couple in the corner holding hands across their booth like a newlywed couple.
“Thank you very much,” Tahquitz ends letting Jade continue the ‘conversation’.
Jade snorts at the ‘expensive’ suggestion. “Parkour’s just running an urban obstacle course. I like to work out in Faultline, the blown down areas. Most expensive thing you’ll need is a good pair of running shoes, and some sturdy gloves. For the rest of it, just jeans and a t-shirt’s fine.”
“Heh. I though it was like that Finge Shooey or other mumbo jumbo out ther– Okay, she’s out of ear shot. So, there’s the delicate matter of when to get the book back. If we go too soon to when I was there in Oranbega, the Circle of Thorns will be clued in to Ouroboros unless I go ‘Marty McFly’ and try to hide at every turn. Not even sure if I’ll even succeed and the book will be lost again. But if I go too far back, we influence the timeline too much and wars won’t happen.” Tahquitz says to Jade.
“I was thinking one of two approaches. One, we head to the moment the Circle of Thorns assembles all the missing pages and snag it then. Or two, we come in the moment that I leave the portal to stop the Circle from resurrecting Rulaaru and confront the mage who tossed it immediately. The confusion will give us a hell of an advantage, but if I return from the portal before we get the book, we screwed up. So there’ll be a time limit of about 12 minutes.”
“Time travel is such a total headache,” Jade mutters, voice low, as the toys with the salad. “Trying to grab the book while the CoT mages are putting it together, I’m guessing there’ll be a bunch of them there then, and high-level, too, yeah?”
“On the other hand, pop out of the portal too late, and miss the boat as the book gets tossed.”
She sighs. “You’ve been through it all once before, you’re a better judge of which approach has the best chance. I’ll follow your lead.”
She finishes off the salad, evidently still enjoying it despite the topic of conversation.
“I guess I’ll surprise you.” Tahq says, swigging a bit of Cola through the straw. “So… Tell me about yourself. What do you do when not fighting crime?”
Jade leans back in her chair, sipping the tea. “I actually do run Parkour, it’s a great workout. And I am still perfecting my Gung Fu, and teaching dance classes on the side. I was a dance major at Berkeley, before the Rikti’s first attacked and I moved out here to study more martial arts.”
She shrugs a little, then adds with a wry smile, “Now, I mostly ‘dance’ with mobs on the street, or worse.”
Tahquitz says, “I wish I had the patience for Martial Arts. I’m too impulsive… I’d want to smash boards when everyone else is doing that air-kicking stuff for practice.”
“Gung Fu? Never heard of that. What is it?”
Jade bursts out laughing at his admission. “Tahquitz, I don’t think there was ever a less patient student that me. I can’t tell you how many times I had to stand there and ‘Be the Tree’, geez. If I could learn it, trust me, there’s hope for you.”
“Gung Fu? Chinese Martial Arts, some people call it Gong Fu or Kung Fu. I pretty much grew up on it, my Dad and my brother teach Gung Fu back in San Francisco. I helped out too, before I went to Berkeley to major in Dance.”
She rolls her eyes. “You’d have thought I’d betrayed the family, choosing dance over martial arts. But then, I guess the Rikti chose my path after all.”
“How did the Rikti–” He starts, when the waitress walks up with a plate and a pitcher of cold tea.
“Here you go sweetie…” The waitress deposits his burger on a plate in front of him. “Would you like a refill on that, miss?”
“Sure, thanks,” Jade replies cheerfully, handing over the cup. “Extra lemon this time? Thanks.”
After taking a couple of bites, he clears his mouth and continues… “So, Rikti and dancing… An unlikely dance teacher. What happened?”
Jade sighs. “They attacked lots of places, you remember? I was on campus when they attacked, and… well, it wasn’t my dance moves that knocked down their drones.”
She pokes at a stray fragment of lettuce with her fork. “It seemed obvious, after the attack, that what I can do, the martial arts, are needed. And it was obvious to me that if we have to deal with things like aliens, for cryin’ out loud, then I needed to learn more. So, I came here. And I’ve been here ever since, learning and fighting. So…” She shrugs.
“Fair enough. There’s so many here who got influenced by one villain group or another… it’s easy to get into a vengeance mindset. And I’m no exception.”
“I’m from a small California town, too. Nowhere as nice as Berkeley. Agua Caliente looks like the outskirts of Bakersfield, only with a lot less rain. I was an only child when my father died from a construction accident. After I got my powers from a storm altar forgotten about in the mountains, the Circle of Thorns raided my town to steal any other artifacts they could grab, desecrate some graves, and not only that, seize the entire town for 48 hours until it was stripped clean before running back to the East Coast. Tribal Police powerless to stop them.”
“And I’ve been here ever since. But it took me a while to get to Rhode Island. This is the short version. I wouldn’t blame you if that was the case with Rikti, but you seem more well-adjusted than me in any case.”
“Well adjusted, thanks. You really know how to turn a compliment,” Jade laughs. “But yeah, none of my family or friends got killed, so no ‘Tortured Superhero Angsty Backstory’ for me. Really sorry to hear about your town, though, that sucks.”
She sips the tea the waitress has left. “As for ‘well-adjusted’, I’m guessing I’ve been here a few more years than you,” she suggests. She does look to be in her mid-to-late 20’s. “And this has never been about vengeance for me. Just keeping people safe, and stopping the Bad Guys, right?”
Taking a final bite of the burger, he says “Yup!” He flushes the bite with the last of the Cola and gets up.
“So, I’ll settle the check, and we’ll get this show on the road. Ready?” Tahquitz asks.
“Ready when you are. I’ve got my bike here, if you need a ride somewhere.” She points down the street to where a green Kawasaki KLR650 bike was parked.
“Now you’re talking my language! My friend had one of these in Pioneertown. 600cc’s, good for both street use and off-road, just four hundred pounds of joy.” Tahquitz brightens up. “Now I’m glad the menders sent you.”
5 Hours Later
Tahquitz and Jade Dancer darted their way across the city streets to an isolated part of town, where the motorcycle slowed to a 10mph crawl. Jade activated the teleporter to Ouroboros as they slipped inside all at once, bike and all, disappearing in a brilliant topaz flash to a city unaware of what’s going on.
Together they returned to the fateful antechamber where the book was lost to the ages 5 days ago. The creepy part? Tahquitz having to following himself without being caught. If you knew the mission failed and get caught up in an argument on why with your past self instead of the moment, the book could get lost anyway.
The chamber is the site of a Thorn Caster ceremony where a victim from The Hollows was being embedded with a thorn to allow a spirit from Oranbega to claim their body. He watched himself stop the ceremony and attack the three Thorn Casters as well as Bekuaat who was joining in, learning the Thorn’s methods.
Tahquitz from the present is hiding in the dark next to Jade Dancer in one of the pews of the antechamber.
“Alright, in a moment, early me is going to knock out the Thorn Casters and freeze Bekuaat, then dive into the portal. When early me is gone, we strike.” Tahquitz whispers. “When that happens, the 12 minutes starts.”
“Got it,” Jade whispers back. “Any preference for targets? I usually distract the Bosses, but it’s your ballgame.”
“I’ll gun for the book. If you want the boss…” Tahquitz reaches for his belt and pulls out a pointy dagger. The dagger is similar to a Kila Dagger, except it’s got only one head pointed away from the hilt. “This is from the Midnighter’s. It’s a fire hydrant for invading souls, but it won’t bring the owner back, though.”
“Hit the chest, other areas on the body… don’t… quite… work.” Early Tahquitz stepped through the portal. “And now!”
Jade accepts the dagger, frowning. “Won’t Early You, when he gets back, wonder where the dagger came from?”
“We’ll worry about that if we make it.” Tahq calls back before running to the other side of the pews.
Jade vaults up over the pews toward the frozen Bekuatt. She has no intention of trying to power the dagger through all the ice, though. Instead, with dagger clutched in her left hand, she does a focused strike with her right, followed by a spin kick, to shatter the ice covering his upper body, and then tosses the dagger to her right hand and plunges it into his chest.
Bekuatt roars in pain and fury, and swings a blow at her, but Jade ducks his fist and spins closer, using a focused Chi strike to drive the dagger in too deeply to easily remove again.
A savage blow from his other fist catches her mid ribs and throwing her back into the pews, but the blade is well and truly embedded.
Jade laughs, bouncing back to her feet, ready to wade right back in.
Bekuaat is considerably weakened as the dagger glows brightly leaking energy outward as it accelerates the drain on his soul. Unfortunately the fight isn’t over. With an incantation, the dagger darkens considerably and slows in release.
“Teklaa mes en haah rellacht! Semaah! Semaah te nough!”
He regroups and prepares for a fight with the girl who pierced his spirit.
Tahquitz is creeping toward the table where the Malleus Mundi is sitting. He overhears Bekuaat’s exclamation and knows she got him hard. “Nice job… I might even come up with a nickname for you.”
He sees the book wide open, and when he reaches for it with his right arm, a cold grip holds his left hand back and jerks him from the table. Above him, a Nerva Spectral Daemon Lord is on top of him, draining Tahq’s energy as he cries out for his minions to join him.
“And this just got interesting.” Tahquitz says as he warms his fists for a fire blast.
Hearing the Spectral Demon’s cry, Jade knows that reinforcements will no doubt be on their way soon and the clock is ticking. She lightfoots back in toward Bekuatt, ducking and weaving , but the earth begins to rumble and buck beneath her feet.
Undeterred, she instead springs into the air, sailing up and over Bekuatt’s head to land behind him and throw a disorienting Cobra strike, followed fast by an Eagle’s Claw kick, hoping to hurt him.
After launching a Fire Ball into the Daemon, the apparition winces in pain and vanishes into the ceiling.
“Shit! I’ll cover the door, Jade! We’ve made friends.”
“Yeah, I heard. Little busy here!” she pants, dancing hard to keep her footing as the bucking intensifies beneath them.
“If you get what you came for, go ahead and bug out. I’ve got this!”
Bekuaat is reeling from the head kick, but rounds up and makes a fist in the air, trapping Jade’s feet into a Stone Prison.
“Meklan! Sen itoh anlaar, ponel wint!”
Jade topples to the floor, feet well entangled, and takes a precious second to tap her chi, then pummels the stone with a series of punches, trying to shatter it.
Tahquitz is watching the hall leading to the door. There’s a din of noise coming toward them. He doubles back to where Jade and Bekuaat are fighting.
“I didn’t get the book yet… so I’ll help a bit.” Tahquitz uses Fire Breath to set his robes on fire.
“That’ll distract him. As for you…” He reaches in his pocket and tosses Jade a pinkish can of aerosol titled “BREAK FREE!” to spray on her rock-covered feet.
“Seriously, it’s good stuff. I’m going to try to nab the book before it’s a party in here.”
“Thanks, and yes, go, go, grab it and go!” Jade urges, spraying the stone and shaking her feet free. She springs up, aerosol can shoved into her armor, and leaps back toward Bekuatt, dodging and ducking before leaping straight up to try and disorient him with another cobra strike followed by an eagles’ claw kick.
“Ponel wint that, Buddy!” she laughs, as she lands again.
Tahquitz makes a stride back to the table holding the Malleus Mindi and is within 5 feet of grabbing the book when he sees a ghostly wing tip emerge from the wall…
“Fool me once, heh heh…” He throws an icecicle shot to let it know that he sees it. The Spectral Daemon pops out of the wall to try draining Tahquitz again.
As the monsters emerge from the hallway entrance: two Behemoth Masters and a Ice Mage.
“That’s it? That was the ambush?”
And a arch mage of agony emerges from the hallway.
“I’ve got to learn to shut up. Back in a sec, Jade!”
Jade’s starting to feel she’s not quite pulling her own weight. “C’mon, Big Guy, you’re making me look bad here,” she mutters, as she launches a flying kick at Bekuatt, drilling the dagger still deeper into his chest.
She rebounds, barely evading another strike from him in return. Stepping back, she hastily focuses her chi again, and then springs forward, Parkour running right up his front to slam a Cobra strike straight into his face.
Bekuaat reels, temporarily stunned, and Jade glances back to see what Tahquitz is up against.
Not wasting any time, he rips a Bitter Ice Blast on one of the Behemoths rushing to his location, then delivers an uppercut stunning him. He leaps over the second Behemoth to deliver a Fireball into the Ice Mage as he runs to the Archmage and freezes his fists to hit him across the face.
Finally, Tahq drops a bonfire between him and Jade to keep them away from her as the searing heat encourages them to engage him instead of her.
The Archmage of Agony responds with a Gravity Distortion locking Tahq in place as they rush toward him to get in their licks.
The second Behemoth escapes the Bonfire. He eyes Jade and lunges towards her direction. The Spectral Daemon does the same.
“Ooh, yeah, more dance partners, terrific,” Jade signs, spinning to confront them, and hoping Bekuaat stays stunned just a bit longer.
She dodges and weaves as she rushes the behemoth, spinning to knock his legs out from under him and them pummeling him with a combination of punches and a thunder kick as he goes down.
She drops into a crouching stance, one hand up behind her, and makes a beckoning ‘come on’ motion to the Spectral Demon with the other.
The distortion leaves Tahq a sitting duck for a barrage of hits from the three villains surrounding him. The arch mage slashes at his arms with his Falchion, with the Behemoth casting fire from his hands into his torso, while the Ice Mage gives him a dose of Ice Breath.
What they don’t realize: it makes no sense to throw ice and fire on an ice and fire blaster. They’re naturally resistant to their own medicine. What hurt was the Falchion.
Tahquitz escapes from the gravity distortion as he delivers a split barrage from his fists. His left arm an Ice Blast to the Behemoth, the right arm a fire blast to the Ice Mage. They both are knocked out.
Good news? One enemy left. Bad news? Tahq is pretty exhausted.
The Spectral Demon falls for the taunt and closes with Jade, who promptly leaps into the air and delivers a brutal kick. With a scream, the spirit vanishes through a wall, and she turns in time to hammer on the behemoth as it struggles to rise, knocking it out completely.
With a grimace, she pounces on the now stirring Bekuaat, and gives the creature another couple of kicks to the head, before turning toward the Archmage of Agony.
“How about trading places, Tahquitz? You can freeze Bekuatt here, and I can dance with the Mage while you grab the book, yes?”
“Yeah… sounds good.” Tahq says, a bit winded, looking at Bekuaat for the first time since setting his robes on fire. The dagger has barely any light coming out of it at all.
“Just do me a favor… can you say out loud– ‘Siyang ta de linghun’. The dagger will only listen to you since you used it.”
“Not going to cost my my soul, or anything?” Jade quips. “No consigning me to the Hell of Hanging Upside Down in Boiling Oil?”
She grins, then dutifully mouths, “Si-yang ta de lin-ghun.”
“You’ll be fine!” Tahq says as the dagger resumes glowing brightly.
As the dagger finishes it’s job, a brilliant stream of energy emits from the mouth on the dagger’s handle, draining the last of Bekuaat until his eyes and mouth emitted the telltale glow of his attempted Kamikaze reaction… that fails to go off as the dagger runs out of light altogether. The Mage falls lifeless onto the floor with the dagger pointing straight out of his chest. His mouth open, trying to form a final epithet to the two fighters. He fails to finish, releasing only a death rattle.
“So, then, swing your partner and hand off,” Jade says lightly. Without warning, she launches herself over him at the Agony Mage, landing behind and drawing the Mage’s attention away from Tahquitz.
“Seriously, who’s your fashion consultant?” Jade jibes, throwing a thunder kick that the Mage dodges, and a crane kick that he doesn’t. He slams back against the wall, stunned.
“Alright… third time’s the charm, I hope.” Tahq stumbles up to his feet and walks a third time to the table where the book has been laying all along. He grabs it as a white energy emits from the cover upon his touch, then fades.
“No idea what that means. Fortunately, I have no intent to find out.” He wraps the Malleus Mundi with the leather string cord that ties the cover shut, and stuffs it in his back under the belt. “Okay, one dagger to recover…” He pulls the Kila Dagger from the corpse of the Force Mage and yells to Jade, “Here, catch!”
Upon doing so, Jade feels a surge of power as she receives some the dagger’s energy drained from Bekuaat, making her fight at one level higher than normal. “The dagger’s gift for it’s master. It’s not permanent, so enjoy it while it lasts!”
“I get the feeling I should say ‘thanks’, but I’m guessing ‘euuwww’ is probably more realistic.” She shakes her head, staring at the dagger, feeling the surge of energy, and concedes, “Still… what a rush.”
“What next? Got an exit strategy, or do we fight them all the way out?”
“Got the book, got the dagger, now all that’s left is getting the hell out of here before I come back. Let’s plow throu–”
As Tahq says that, a rumbling comes through the tunnels with more roars of Behemoths. The Arch Mage’s eyes start to glow as he tries for a Kamikaze explosion, as Tahq takes Jade by the hand and runs down the hall towards the coming melee.
“I’m still recovering, so you might want to take point? You’re the steak, I’m the sizzle, I’ll cover your back. Deal?”
The explosion of the Arch Mage rattles the cavern walls as small rocks and dust fall from the overhead tunnel ceiling. A strong gust of wind from the energy explosion presses on their backs.
They turn the corner to see a group of five behemoths crowding the corridor ahead, with a swarm of Spectral Demons behind them.
“OK, this is my kind of party!” Jade crows, focusing her chi again and launching herself into the midst of the behemoths. A dragon’s tail sweep knocks four of the behemoths on their asses, and a cobra strike punch rattles the fifth, leaving it shaking its head.
“Stay and play, or head for the exit?” Jade asks, adding, “Tick tock, tick tock, right?”
Checking his watch, they’re 4 minutes from running out of time. “We can finish the room before we jet.”
Jade sucker punches two of the behemoths as they try to scramble back to their feet, and then her arm is grabbed by a Spectral Demon attempting to draw away her life-force.
“Ah-ah-ah, no cutting in line,” she warns it as she yanks Tahquitz’s cannister from within her leather armor and sprays it in the demon’s face. It screams and fades away, clutching its eyes. “Demon Be Gone,” Jade laughs, brandishing the can at the other floating ghosts. “Works first time, every time!”
Jade yips as one of the behemoths toasts her with a wash of flame from behind, and spins to face it.
“DUCK!” Tahquitz yells to Jade as he readies a Bitter Ice Blast from his fists slightly above her head. If she didn’t hear in time, it should miss, but just to be safe…
Jade immediately drops into a low crouch and pivots off to the side, ready to strike again when Tahquitz has finished his attack.
The Bitter Ice Blast impacts on the Behemoth’s face, knocking him down hard. It struggles to get back up, but has a little bit of fight left in him.
It doesn’t take often for Jade and Tahquitz together to finish off the remaining Behemoth, and then Jade wades into the remaining cloud of Spectral Demons, cheerfully punching and kicking left and right, and sending them off to wherever they go when they’re defeated.
“Ha,” she snorts, wiping her hands on her baggy pants. “It never fails to amuse me that you can punch out a ghost.”
“I know.” Tahquitz says as he shoots one down with a fireball as it screams and disappears, slowly sinking down into nothingness. “All the TV shows and movies make you think they’re untouchable, but they’re really not. I wonder why?”
He throws more icicles at a batch of Daemons floating out of a wall behind them, causing them to fly into the ceiling to recoup. “Of course, they got that part of it right.”
“I think we’ve got them on the ropes. Want to make a run for it?”
Checking his watch, there’s 2 minutes and 18 seconds left… “Yeah, time to roll. Let’s Boo-Boo.” Tahquitz catches up to Jade, pulling the book from his back, “Got what we came for.”
“Lead on, then.” Jade falls in place behind him, to cover their rear as they flee.
You return to the Ouroboros Citadel, with the Malleus Mundi in hand, and Jade’s motorcycle unharmed, parked where she left it.
“I’ll never get used to that feeling going through the portal… like the world goes flat and stale before you can smell normal things and breathe fresh air again. Strange.” Tahquitz said, shaking his head and returning to the moment.
“Well, that puts a cap on that. By the way, do you like the dagger? There’s a bit of a story behind it…”
Jade steps off the portal into the giant floating platform in Ouroboros, rolling her shoulders a bit and wincing at a scorch on the back of her neck. “So, that was a good workout. What do we do with the book now?”
She looks down, almost surprised to find she’s still gripping the dagger firmly, and wondering how many she sliced with it. “Blades, you know, stabbing people, not generally my style. It’s cool-looking, though. What’s the story on it?”
“I was going to take the book to a Midnighter’s Club to properly safekeep it. A special Midnighter’s Club that Primal Earth can’t get to, if you’re familiar with Praetoria, that is.”
“As for the dagger, the Kila People were once known to the world as the Phurba, a sect of Tibetian Monks who thrived in Malaysia and the jungles of Asia. This particular dagger was forged and first used on the ritual sacrifice of an ancient warlords’ littlest son by order of a king who sought to punish the warlord for overstepping his bounds. Where the king screwed up, was that the son was an innocent, trapping his soul forever in this blade. Poor kid… that would suck if it happened to me or anyone I knew of. I feel sorry for him.”
“But that was done centuries ago… The die is cast, I’m afraid, so it’s a dagger and a half. If I knew Chinese, this blade listens to it’s master and does anything asked of it. All I know is the command ‘Siyang ta de linghun’. The last person to use the dagger it listens to, so I’m okay to say it unless I was the one who stabbed Bekuaat. If you said it and placed it into my chest in a less than friendly manner, I would be down for the count.”
“Of course, it’s not your pet or anything. It doesn’t know you any different from me, you simply used it last. If I used it on someone now, the dagger would listen to me next. It doesn’t always work on enemies, but for the damned and demonic, it’s super effective.”
Jade regards the blade with less enthusiasm. “Sounds cursed, and cursed things usually come back to bite you in the ass eventually.”
She frowns at it, and then looks up at Tahquitz. “Maybe the Midnighters should look after this to, or that woman down in M.A.G.I, Azuria? Although it seems like Azuria’s always losing stuff.”
“You’re right. The warlord got the dagger back after his son’s sacrifice and ran off into the wilds forsaking his title and lands. When people found him last, he was inches from death, with multiple stab marks trying to get his son back.” Tahquitz said, spinning it around in his palm before fastening it back on his belt.
“The same thing happened to everyone else in history who used it as their primary weapon. I don’t use it unless I’m facing overpowered Circle of Thorns or Banished Pantheon. Now that this mission is through, it’s going back where it belongs… on a mantle at Steel Canyon University.”
“That’s why I like the Midnighter’s… I don’t mind magical weapons on occasion, but I want to know everything about them for that exact reason. If you or I use this too long, we’ll wind up going mad ourselves. But once in a while is fine.”
Jade nods, strangely relieved to be rid of the blade, no matter how ‘beneficial’ it might seem.
“Wonder if that’s how it feels,” Jade murmurs, almost to herself, “when Nyght… does her thing.”
“That’s the second time I’ve heard that name… Nyght? Who’s that? Never met her.” Tahquitz asked Jade.
Jade shrugs. “My Landlady. Just another Super. Erm, Superhero, although I guess she’s the building Super too.”
“So, you need me to accompany you to the Midnighters Club? What with you having the book? And the dagger?”
“Sounds good. I’ll check in with the Menders real quick then we can ride…”
“I hate to imagine if you’re late on the rent or utilities. Powered people can be scary at times.” Tahq says, “My dad’s foreman was a tanker who–”
Mender Onquoy and Flower Knight walk up to the two talking at the Ouroboros Portal, “Tahquitz, Jade, I trust your mission went well?”
“Yes, sir, got the Overdue Library Book back from our patrons, but they didn’t pay their fines. I think their checkout privileges should be revisited in a future meeting.” Tahquitz said as he handed to Malleus Mundi to Onquoy. “Flower Knight, always a pleasure… you’ve met Jade, right? I think you two have a lot in common.”
Jade grins, bowing to Flower Knight. “We’ve worked together a bit, yeah. Nice to see you again, F.K.”
“Yup, Jade and I are acquainted. I see your armor is better from the last time we teamed together.” Flower Knight notices and smiles back at Jade, “Was he a problem? Tim tends to be a comedian until he gets the sense knocked back into him.”
“No problem, he’s a Pro,” Jade replies. “And he appreciates a good bike, so there’s that,” she adds with a smile.
“Indeed… Jade, can I have a word with you?” Mender Onquoy asked the young woman, “Alone?”
Tahquitz looks at the mender, “Everything alright?”
“Of course, I just wanted to see how she’s progressing. Routine assessment, but personal. You know how it is.” Mender Onquoy reassured him.
“Is that the sacrifice dagger you were telling me about?” Flower Knight asks Tahquitz, leading him away from the two as she lifts it from his belt. “It’s really scary looking… and so light!”
“Sure,” Jade nods to Mender Onquoy. With a nod to Tahquitz, Jade turns and followers Onquoy off.
Mender Onquoy walked Jade Dancer closer to the Citadel doors as he began, “Alright, I can tell you parts of what’s going on, but I can’t tell Tahquitz directly… he’s stubborn, and if I told him the truth, he’d defy us.”
“I can’t let you guys take the book. If you did, you’d both die. It’s nothing personal, right now Praetoria is in great turmoil. If anyone took the book they’d die doing it. So we’re going to safekeep it here at the Citadel until we have a better handle on where to put it.”
“You don’t have to explain any of this to him. In fact, when you two leave, I’m hoping his forgetful nature takes place and he remembers it when you get back to your time. But if you tell him the truth, it will lead to his death. Do you understand?”
“You don’t have to lie to him. Just… don’t tell him this. Anything you have to tell him but this. We’re concerned for your safety as well as his. Can you help us with this, Jade?”
Jade frowns. “Not a big fan of subverting free will, Onquoy. How do you propose to get the book away from him without his realizing it?”
“I have it right here.” He pulls the book from his knapsack. “We’ve seen what happens. He’ll come to understand it later, we’ll explain why when it’s over, but for now, for your safety and his, the best thing for you two would be to return the dagger to Steel Canyon.”
“I don’t like doing this to people, in fact, I really hate this. But Mender Silos tells me it’s a priority, and he doesn’t toss that word around lightly.”
Jade sigh, but nods. “OK, I’ll do what I can. But subterfuge sucks. Just saying. Anything else?”
“I owe you. Really, more than you know. Thank you, Jade.” Onquoy said, relieved that she understood. “I look forward to seeing you again.”
“Yeah, sure,” Jade replies, less than enthusiastically, as she turns to walk back over to Tahquitz and her bike.
Jade and Tahquitz exit the portal and return to Talos Island’s causeway bridges. Together, they cut a path to Steel Canyon University to return the cursed dagger back to the “Antiquities Club” that both of them happen to be card carrying members of.
On the way, of course, Tahquitz remembered that he forgot the book at Ouroboros. Jade reassured him that Onquoy had the tome and it’s safe, but said she was feeling tired tonight and wanted to head home to sleep. And Tim had an important meeting with the PPD the next day, so he promised to take the book to Praetoria later in the week.
Epilogue: 40 seconds after Jade Dancer returns to Tahquitz and they exit…
“‘Mender Silos tells me it’s a priority, and he doesn’t toss that word around lightly.’ Nice touch. But I never said that.” A familiar voice says behind Mender Onquoy.
“Tell me, what would you do in my situation? You mean to tell me you’ve never meddled in the affairs of Nemesis to keep him safe from unexpected harm?” Mender Onquoy asked his boss.
“Well, it’s not like you and I are unalike. We both were archvillains. We both terrorized the masses. The difference, Taki, is the eras we were in. You made the Incans and Native Americans tremble at your feet, I tried to conquer Modern Day Earth, one scheme at a time.” Mender Silos offered up, “But you found reform well before I did, Taki Onquoy.”
“If it wasn’t for Tim Verne, I wouldn’t be who I am today.” he replied.
“Okay, I’M confused. And I rarely get confused, aren’t you Tim Verne?” Mender Silos asked?
“No. I’m Taki Onquoy. But the Cauhillian people had a language barrier with Ancient Incan, so the name Taki Onquoy became Tahquitz… until I was defeated by The Trapper. A thousand years of slumber, and Tim Verne found me, and it took decades before I could exist on my own once more. Other heroes took up the mantle of Tahquitz, and each of them taught me as he had, but he… he was my first teacher. And my greatest.”
“Touching story. But you know my policies. Next time you want to interact with Tim, I’m present. Non-negotiable.” Mender Silos said, “But since you asked… about Nemesis… yes. There were times.”
“I knew it–” Onquoy said.
“But you above all of us know that the past is dangerous to meddle with. You could have royally undone yourself just now, just by talking to him. Be careful, old friend. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I’ll try.” Mender Onquoy said, then turned and went into the Citadel building.